The island country of Madagascar remains plagued by political and economic instability, poverty, and food insecurity. While the country engaged in an ambitious transformation program designed to improve social, economic, and governance indicators between 2002 and 2008, a 2009 political crisis has thrown these improvements off-course. This political strife, in combination with the global financial downturn, led to a 4 percent decline in economic growth in 2009 (World Bank 2012).

Over three quarters of the country’s 20 million people live below the national poverty line (WFP 2012). Madagascar has a per capita GDP of US$461 and was ranked 64th out of 79 on the 2012 Global Hunger Index. The country’s food security rating is an “alarming” 22.5 (GHI 2012). Poverty levels increased over 9 percentage points between 2005 and 2010, reaching 77 percent of households; this gives Madagascar the highest poverty rate in all of Africa (World Development Indicators 2011). Income inequality is rampant, particularly in urban areas.

Madagascar’s population is extremely vulnerable to food insecurity, due in large part to the country’s vulnerability to natural disasters including drought, cyclones, and flooding. Madagascar is the third most African country exposed to climatic disasters (World Bank 2012). An estimated 35 percent of households are chronically affected by food insecurity, while 48 percent of households are considered vulnerable. In southern regions, where droughts are most frequent, food insecurity affects 68 percent of households (Comprehensive Food Security, Nutrition and Vulnerability Assessment, WFP/UNICEF 2012). Chronic malnutrition rates in the country have reached 49 percent (WFP 2012).
An estimated 80 percent of the country’s population lives in rural areas; 76.7 percent of rural inhabitants are poor, compared with 52.1 percent of urban inhabitants (IFAD 2012). A lack of infrastructure and dependence on subsistence agriculture have contributed to declining living conditions in rural areas.

Chronic poverty and food insecurity have greatly reduced health indicators and life expectancy in the country. Life expectancy is just over 55 years, and 84 out of every 1,000 children die before the age of 5 (IFAD 2012).